Stop Code Compliance Costs From Being Taxed by Tamarac

Stop Code Compliance Costs From Being Taxed by Tamarac 2By Patti Lynn

The City of Tamarac will be holding its first reading of a new “Nuisance Abatement Assessment Ordinance”  this Wednesday morning. On the outside, it appears fairly innocuous; however, it’s the unspoken, unwritten consequences that really need to be scrutinized.

Temporary Ordinance 2247, which will be heard at 9 am at City Hall, is designed to ensure that the City of Tamarac recoups money spent on bringing a property into code compliance.

First of all, a city official advised that the city “loses” about $5,000 per year in code compliance abatement costs. That is the money from those liens placed on properties that are then foreclosed upon. By state law, most of that type of lien, fine, assessment, whatever, is unrecoverable. It’s just like homeowners and condo associations. There is a limit to what the banks are required to pay. Maybe we should push the legislature to allow those liens to be recoverable. It’s not as if the banks don’t have the money to pay. They’re just “protected” from paying. That’s one of the benefits of having a lobbyist in your corner, and the banks have lots and lots of lobbyists.

The new ordinance would place the costs associated with compliance on your tax bill. The City of Tamarac will create a “Special Taxing District,” encompassing the entire city. That will give city officials the right to place a special “tax” on your property. In November, when taxes become due, those costs would also become due. If they are not paid, a tax certificate will be sold on the property.

Now, the unstated problems:

Most folks who have mortgages also pay their taxes and insurance into an escrow account. That means, if the taxes (including the “special tax) go up, then your mortgage company is going to raise your mortgage payment next year to cover the cost of higher taxes. So, until the next tax bill is generated in 12 months, you’ll be paying, perhaps, another $100 or $200 per month for your mortgage. Not good.

The Code Enforcement Department will be issuing compliance notices. The process includes appeals, but those appeals go to the Mayor and the Commissioners. The neutral 3rd party in use now, the Magistrate, will not be a part of these procedures. Now, if the City of Tamarac had a “bone to pick” with you, no one outside of the city could prevent some unilateral action on Tamarac’s part. Granted, you might have a good lawsuit, but isn’t this a little heavy-handed? It really could be, and this procedure is not needed.

Last, what about those elderly residents, on minimal budgets, who aren’t always able to keep their property in spick and span condition? Under the rules in play now, the city comes and cleans up the mess. If the person can’t pay the cleanup fees, a lien is placed on the property. When that property changes hands through sale, demise, or whatever, the City of Tamarac collects its money. Under the new proposal, that elderly resident could actually lose their home in a tax sale and be evicted! How cold.

In these harsh economic times, compassion should trump collections.

David Mohabir

This proposed ordinance doesn’t seem well thought out. The premise is excellent, but when you take those conditions and apply them to the demographics of the City of Tamarac, some warning bells do go off. The City has probably already spent more than $5,000 just researching the temporary ordinance. They’ve also hired 3 more code compliance officers (You know that you’re looking at more than $20,000 each in salaries and benefits) to prepare for when this ordinance is enacted. AND, the ordinance itself makes it effective immediately upon second reading…and that is scheduled in May 2012.

All that $$$ for a mere $5,000?

I’d urge the City Commission to take this off the table and look at it again. It seems more punitive than progressive. It’s not as if the City of Tamarac is down to its last dollar. They have an excellent, well-endowed surplus account. In these harsh economic times, compassion should trump collections.

It’s not as if the money will be lost. It’ll just be a little late getting to the bank.

This ordinance will be heard on April 25th, 2012, at 9 am in the Commission Chambers.  Please get in touch with the Mayor or Commissioners to let them know what you think about this:

Adam Baron Law